friends and other ramen enthusiasts, would usually salivate at the mere mention of Ippudo, known for its rich Tonkotsu-based ramen. The silky broth is intense with the taste of pork, and is too good to share.
However, getting a slurp of this ridiculously addicting broth is no easy task. The lines of loyal followers snake down mall corridors or around city blocks.
Ippudo is the brainchild of Shigemi Kawahara, who’s often referred to as the Ramen King for his reinvention of the dish. His philosophy, “to continuously innovate to remain true,” clearly demonstrates his passion for creating the perfect bowl of ramen.
Since it first opened in 1985, Ippudo has become a ramen empire with over 65 branches around the world, in major cities in the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and China.
Stepping into an Ippudo outlet is always an experience.
The restaurant’s relatively dark interiors are accentuated with ramen bowls and spoons, all in Ippudo’s signature deep red hue.
The modern interiors allow for a clean and aesthetically pleasing dining experience, while the clay features from Hakata, Ippudo’s birthplace, do not let the restaurant’s design stray too far from its traditional roots.
Once seated, one can’t help but notice the different sounds of the dining room—from the shouting cooks in the open kitchen to the occasional conversation of diners, and the slurping sounds that come with each spoonful of ramen and broth.
Ippudo’s menu is short but sweet. Aside from the ramen mainstays, small plates are available. The Maguro Tartar has garlic soy and herb wasabi oil, providing a fresh alternative to the typical sashimi.
You can’t go wrong with Ippudo’s classic marinated chicken, the Tori Tatsuta-Age, delicately fried and served with grated daikon ponzu sauce. I’ve been hearing that a close equivalent to the Tori Tatsuta-Age will also be served in the local franchise.
My favorite is the Ippudo Pork Bun, stuffed with a nicely seared slab of pork belly and accompanied with a spicy mayonnaise.
Which ramen to order? Recommended is the Akamaru Modern. You could call it the cooler, more mature version of Ippudo’s signature Shiromaru Hakata Classic.
Shiromaru has a clean and porky flavor profile, similar to the bowls of ramen in Ippudo’s hometown of Fukuoka, with a few slices of menma (Japanese fermented bamboo shoots), slivers of pickled ginger and a handful of scallions.
Akamaru Modern builds on a richer soup base that’s flavored with a touch of black garlic oil, kikurage mushrooms, a dollop of red Umami Dama miso paste, and two thick slices of chashu or Japanese braised pork. The result is a bowl of smoky and umami-ful ramen.
The complex flavors of the Akamaru Modern broth can also be attributed to its long and delicate cooking process. It begins with the selection of prime cuts of pork bones, which are then simmered over a 15-hour period.
The broth is then blended from three different cooking stages to achieve the creamy consistency Ippudo’s ramen is known for.
The thin, springy noodles are cooked al dente, leaving room for a nice bite. They are made in-house daily in a detailed and complex manner, which involves measuring the water’s acidity and alkaline levels. All these steps are taken in order to ensure that when a customer receives his or her bowl of ramen, it is in its ideal state.
When you just can’t have enough, Ippudo offers a “kae dama” system in which customers can order an additional serving of noodles for their soup. I’m sure we can expect the same quality of ramen that Ippudo is known for—once it opens its doors in the Philippines.
Without a doubt, Ippudo deserves to be called one of the pioneers in the ramen scene. As more and more outlets pop up around the globe, the resto continues to educate eager consumers about ramen culture and its traditions.
While Hong Kong and Singapore are only a couple of hours away, it’s good that we are about to experience, very soon, what all the talk is about.
Ippudo Manila opens on Sept. 10 at the 3/F of SM Megamall Fashion Hall.